Re-releases of classic games can be hard to review. Should a game be judged on how well it holds up to modern standards, or simply how faithfully it recreates the original experience? Fortunately, Flashback doesn’t cause that problem, as it’s a complete re-imagining of the original game. This is Flashback done for the modern era, but it doesn’t stand up to modern standards, and should be avoided by all but the most hardcore of fans.
Flashback follows a man named Conrad Hart, a government agent trying to unravel an alien conspiracy as he simultaneously attempts to recover his memories, which have been wiped out. Conrad’s path will take him across the galaxy; all while being hunted by alien forces.
The game is a 2D platformer, where aiming and firing are handled with the right stick and right trigger, respectively. Conrad can jump and climb from platform to platform, using special goggles to uncover clues or highlight destructible objects in his vicinity. As progress through the game is made, Conrad levels up and can spend points upgrading attributes like his accuracy or stamina.
Flashback starts out decently, as the initial area walks the player through the mechanics of the game and offers up a taste of the platforming to come. Unfortunately, the mechanics from the beginning are essentially the same throughout, and despite environment and enemy changes everything feels repetitive.
Flashback attempts to keep the player engaged with the leveling system, but all it does is allow for things like a slightly larger health bar, rather than gaining anything really meaningful. In fact, the game never introduces the skill points, trusting that the player will find the right menu to allocate them. I suppose it’s not surprising that the system is forgotten, because I forgot it existed several times and often had several levels worth of unspent skill points.
The game sports a target locking system, which I assume is intended to help when firing at enemies. More often than not though, with an enemy directly in front of me, my aim would wander to some point far above in the distance, or sometimes Conrad would just fire into the ground at his feet. For a feature that should help, I found it actively working against me. Aiming in the game was frustrating, especially in the later levels when I had multiple enemies to deal with at once. When I was manually aiming, the camera had a tendency to pan far beyond my actual target, at times to the point that my character was barely on the screen.
The platforming itself also becomes an issue, as Conrad would fall through the floor in a section only to magically rise up to a higher platform. In general everything worked ok if I was climbing or jumping, but once I was hit by an enemy and falling all bets were off as to where I might land. Enemies will ragdoll when killed, and flopped around comically when I ran past their corpses.
Graphically the game is generally solid, with the exception of some occasional screen tearing and hitches when reaching a checkpoint. Story beats are told in a cool graphic novel style that I really liked. There is no music to speak of, other than the tune that plays to signal an incoming enemy encounter. Character voices are solid, with good dialog and expressiveness.
For all my complaints about aiming and platforming, my biggest issue with Flashback is that it just isn’t fun to play. It quickly becomes repetitive, and while I enjoyed the way the story was presented, it still wasn’t enough to draw me into the narrative. Enemy encounters all feel the same, and most of the objectives feel like just running from place to place.
In the end, Flashback fails in its attempt to bring a classic game into the present. Multiple technical issues coupled with a constant sense of “been there, done that” keep the game from ever finding any kind of rhythm. For those who loved the original (which is included), it might worth the price of admission, but anyone else will do well to stay away.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.